SLEEP OUT FOR HOMELESSNESS

Times Square will shut down tomorrow night as a part of The World’s Big Sleep Out to raise awareness and combat homelessness.

Aired on December 6, 2019. 

TRANSCRIPT

> GOOD EVENING AND WELCOME TO 'METROFOCUS,' I'M JENNA FLANAGAN.

HERE IS AND A ASTONISHING FACT.

ROUGHLY ONE IN EVERY 121 NEW YORKERS IS HOMELESS.

LIVING ON THE STREETS, MANY ARE OVERLOOKED BY THE HUSTLE AND BUSTLE OF THE CITY.

FOR ONE NIGHT PEOPLE AROUND THE GLOBE WILL BE SLEEPING OUT IN SOLIDARITY AND NEW YORK FROM NEW YORK'S ICONIC TIMES SQUARE TO LONDON'S WELL KNOWN TRAFALGAR SQUARE WITH CELEBRITIES LIKE WILL SMITH AND HELEN MIRREN LENDING A HAND.

THIS IS PART OF OUR CHASING THE DREAM INITIATIVE ON POVERTY IN AMERICA.

THINK FOR A MINUTE ABOUT WHAT HOME MEANS TO YOU.

FOR ME HOME MEANS CONVERSATION.

IT'S LIKE THE PLACE WHERE MY FAMILY COMES TOGETHER AND THAT'S THE MOST BEAUTIFUL PART OF HOME.

BUT THERE ARE OVER 100 MILLION PEOPLE IN THE WORLD THAT DON'T HAVE A PLACE TO CALL HOME.

ON DECEMBER 7, 2019 WE ARE HOPING FOR 50,000 PEOPLE TO SLEEP OUT IN THE WORLD'S LARGEST DISPLAY OF SOLIDARITY AND SUPPORT FOR HOMELESS AND DISPLACED PEOPLE.

MAJOR SLEEP-OUT EVENTS WILL BE HAPPENING IN TRAFALGAR SQUARE, TIMES SQUARE AND 50 CITIES ACROSS THE WORLD.

AND WE'RE ASKING YOU TO COME AND JOIN US, WHETHER YOU'RE SLEEPING OUT AT AN OFFICIAL EVENT OR HOSTING YOUR OWN SLEEPOUT IN YOUR BACK GARDEN.

FOR ONE NIGHT, LET'S WALK IN THE SHOES THAT PEOPLE WE'D NORMALLY WALK PAST AND LET'S TRY TO RAISE $50 MILLION TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE TO PEOPLE IN YOUR AREA AND ALL AROUND THE WORLD.

HERE TO TELL US MORE ABOUT TOMORROW'S WORLD SLEEP-OUT IS FOUNDER JOSH LITTLEJOHN AND BROOKLYN BOROUGH PRESIDENT ERIC ADAMS WHO HAS BEEN ON THE FOREFRONT ON THE FIGHT AGAINST HOMELESSNESS HERE IN NEW YORK.

WELCOME TO THE PROGRAM.

THANK YOU VERY MUCH.

JOSH, I WANT TO START WITH YOU AND GIVE PEOPLE A BETTER UNDERSTANDING OF THE PURPOSE BEHIND THE BIG SLEEPOUT.

ORIGINATED FROM OUR CHARITY IN SCOTLAND.

WE'VE BEEN WORKING WITH HOMELESS PEOPLE FOR ABOUT THE LAST SEVEN YEARS.

OVER THE LAST THREE YEARS WE'VE BEEN DOING SLEEPOUT EVENTS.

IT STARTED IN EDINBUROUGH IN 2016 WHERE WE HAD 270 PEOPLE SLEEP OUT IN A TINY SQUARE AND IT'S GROWN OVER THE LAST FEW YEARS.

THIS YEAR IT'S GONE TO A GLOBAL SCALE.

SO ON SATURDAY NIGHT, THERE'S GOING TO BE ABOUT 50,000 PEOPLE SLEEPING OUT ALL OVER THE WORLD.

HERE IN TIMES SQUARE WHICH WE'RE SO EXCITED ABOUT BUT LITERALLY EVERYWHERE FROM NEW DELHI, INDIA, MANILA THE PHILIPPINES AND ALL THROUGH OUT THE WORLD.

WHAT WE'RE AIMING THE DO IS CREATE A GLOBAL MOMENT OF SOLIDARITY, COMPASSION.

WE WANT TO REALLY SHINE THE GLOBAL SPOTLIGHT, THE MEDIA SPOTLIGHT ON THE ISSUE AND TRY TO RAISE A REAL SENSE OF POLITICAL URGENCY BUT HOPEFULLY RAISE A SUBSTANTIAL SUM OF MONEY, SO EVERYBODY THAT'S SLEEPING OUT IN TIMES SQUARE HAS AN ONLINE FUND-RAISING PAGE AND THEY'VE BEEN GETTING SPONSORED TO DO SO.

THAT'S GOING TO BENEFIT GREAT CHARITIES AROUND THE WORLD AS WELL AS UNICEF INTERNATIONAL.

BROOKLYN BOROUGH PRESIDENT, WE'VE BEEN TALKING SO MUCH ABOUT HOMELESSNESS HERE IN NEW YORK CITY AND THE FACT THERE'S BEEN AN INCREASE IN THE NUMBER OF INDIVIDUALS, FAMILIES, WOMEN AND CHILDREN, ET CETERA.

HOW DO YOU SEE THIS EVENT, THE ONE YOU'LL BE HOSTING IN BROOKLYN, HELPING THE EFFORT TO DEAL WITH HOMELESSNESS.

THE NUMBERS ARE REAL WHEN YOU THINK ABOUT 64,000 PEOPLE HOMELESS SINCE THE GREAT DEPRESSION, ONE OUT OF TEN SCHOOL AGE CHILDREN ARE WITHOUT A HOME.

IN AMERICA, THE THEME IS HOME IS WHERE YOUR HEART IS.

IT'S ALMOST HEARTLESS NOT TO HAVE A PLACE TO GO HOME AND STAY.

IT'S NOT REAL TO ME.

IT'S NOT ONLY PROFESSIONAL, IT'S PERSONAL.

AS A CHILD, MOM USED TO TELL US, BRING YOUR GARBAGE BAG FULL OF CLOTHING TO SCHOOL EVERY DAY.

WHEN YOU GET HOME, THE MMARSHAL BE THERE TO THROW US OUT.

WHEN WE DO THIS DURING THE HOLIDAY SEASON, IT ALLOWS US TO DRAMATIZE THAT WE ARE WATCHING FOR PEOPLE THAT ARE HOMELESS.

WHAT JOSH IS DOING AND HIS NETWORK ACROSS THE GLOBE IS SAYING LET'S ACKNOWLEDGE THE FACT THAT WE HAVE HUMAN BEINGS WHO DON'T HAVE A PLACE TO STAY AND SLEEP.

I WAS OUTSIDE THE SYRIAN BORDER WHERE MANY SYRIAN REFUGEES LEFT THEIR HOMES AND WERE STAYING IN TENTS.

THEY WERE TRAUMATIZED.

NOT TO HAVE A SHOEM A TRAUMATIZING EXPERIENCE.

WE WANT TO DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT IN A REAL ONE.

ONE NIGHT WE'RE ASKING NEW YORKERS TO COME OUT AND SHARE THE STREETS WITH THOSE WHO DON'T HAVE A PLACE TO LIVE.

I'M WONDERING THE LOCATIONS, SPECIFICALLY HERE IN NEW YORK, TIMES SQUARE AND TRAFALGAR SQUARE IN LONDON.

WHY WERE THESE LOCATIONS CHOSEN?

SO WE WANTED TO GET PLACES THAT ARE ICONIC TO SHINE THE GLOBAL SPOTLIGHT ON THIS ISSUE.

I GUESS WE FELT, IF WE WANTED TO TRY TO GET THE WORLD'S MEDIA TO PAY ATTENTION TO THIS ISSUE AND THE WORLD'S POLITICIANS, WHAT BETTER PLACE THAN TIMES SQUARE AND TO CHIE ATE THAT SENSE OF FOCAL POINT AND AWARENESS.

WE APPROACHED NEW YORK ABOUT A YEAR AGO, PHONED UP FROM SCOTLAND AND SAID WE'D LIKE TO DO SOMETHING LIKE THIS.

WE CAME HERE AND MET A FEW PEOPLE.

TO MY SURPRISE AND AMAZEMENT, THEY SAID IT WOULD BE DIFFICULT TO DO THAT IN NEW YORK.

MAYBE A VENUE THAT COULD WORK MIGHT BE TIMES SQUARE.

THAT WAS ONE OF THE FIRST VENUES WE ESTABLISHED.

FROM THERE LONDON SAID, IF YOU'VE GOT TIMES SQUARE WE'LL GIVE YOU TRAFALGAR SQUARE.

HERE WE ARE TODAY WITH 52 CITIES ALL OVER THE WORLD.

WE CAN HOPEFULLY CREATE A LIVE AID MOMENT FOR THE HOMELESSNESS ISSUE AND SHINE THE SPOTLIGHT ON IT AND RAISE A LOT OF MONEY.

THAT'S WHY WE DID IT AT BROOKLYN BOROUGH HALL.

SOME PEOPLE WON'T GO TO TIMES SQUARE.

YOU CAN DO IT WHERE YOU ARE.

YOU CAN GO TO TIMES SQUARE WHERE A COUPLE THOUSAND PEOPLE WILL BE.

YOU CAN ALSO GO RIGHT OUTSIDE YOUR BACK YARD.

THIS IS A TEACHING MOMENT WITH YOUR FAMILY AND SPENDING TIME TOGETHER AND HAVE A CONVERSATION AROUND HOMELESSNESS.

I'M GOING TO DO IT OUTSIDE MY OFFICE AT BROOKLYN BOROUGH HALL.

PEOPLE WILL JOIN ME AND WE'LL HAVE A CONVERSATION THROUGHOUT THE NIGHT.

I HAVE A GREAT ORGANIZATION CALLED S.E.M. BFRMT A., SAFE IN MY BROTHER'S ARM AND ASSET, A GROUP OF YOUNG MEN AND WOMEN WHO ARE HOMELESS, SCHOOL-AGED CHILDREN, A SUPPORT GROUP AMONG THEMSELVES.

THEY'RE GOING TO COME THROUGH OUT THE NIGHT.

AND OTHERS WILL COME THROUGH OUT THE NIGHT AND WE'LL FACEBOOK LIVE AND HAVE A CONVERSATION ABOUT HOMELESSNESS AND WHAT WE CAN DO ABOUT IT.

THIS FEELS LIKE, FROM MY OWN LIFE EXPERIENCE, I DON'T THINK I REMEMBERED THIS MUCH ATTENTION ON THE ISSUE OF HOMELESSNESS, HONESTLY SINCE THE COMIC RELIEF TELETHON IN THE '80s.

I'M WONDERING IF EITHER OF YOU CAN SPEAK ON WHAT ARE THE CURRENT ECONOMIC GLOBAL PRESSURES, LOCAL PRESSURE THAT'S CAUSING AN INCREASE WE'RE SEEING IN PEOPLE WHO ARE EITHER FLEEING HOMES, AS YOU WERE MENTIONING, OR WHO FIND THEMSELVES UNABLE TO AFFORD A ROOF OVER THEIR HEAD.

I THINK, AS ERIC MENTIONED, HOMELESSNESS IN NEW YORK IS AT ITS WORST LEVEL SINCE THE GREAT DEPRESSION.

IN UK, NUMBERS HAVE SHOT UP TO ALMOST AS WORST AS THEY HAVE BEEN.

I TRAVELED TO THE WEST COAST OF AMERICA, CAMPAIGNING FOR THIS EVENT.

I'VE BEEN TO SAN FRANCISCO AND LOS ANGELES.

IT'S THE FIRST TIME I'VE BEEN THERE.

IT'S ALMOST APOCALYPTIC THE LEVELS OF HOMELESSNESS ON THE STREETS.

IT TAKES YOU BACK.

IT'SALITY THE FOREFRONT OF PEOPLE'S CONSCIOUSNESS WITHIN THESE BIG CITIES WHERE WE LIVE.

IN THESE WEALTHY CITIES, SUCH A GREAT DISPARITY BETWEEN THE HAVES AND HAVE-NOTS AND SUCH WEALTH.

PEOPLE CONFINED TO THE STREETS ARE FAMILIES GROWING UP IN THE SHELTER SYSTEMS.

THERE'S DIFFERENT CAUSES OF THAT.

THERE'S A SUPPLY AND DEMAND ISSUE WITH HOUSING.

I THINK BUILDING MORE AFFORDABLE HOUSING IS CRITICAL.

ALSO THERE'S MENTAL HEALTH ISSUES WHERE TIMES THE HOUSE ON ITS OWN ISN'T NECESSARILY ENOUGH AND WE NEED TO INVEST IN SUPPORTING PEOPLE TO BE ABLE TO SUSTAIN THAT.

THE GOOD THING ABOUT THE HOMELESSNESS ISSUE, HAVING WORKED IN IT FOR ALMOST A DECADE, THERE ARE EXAMPLES OF INTERNATIONAL PRACTICE THAT WE KNOW WORK.

WE'VE SEEN COUNTRIES AND CITIES DRIVE THEIR HOMELESSNESS NUMBERS DOWN.

WE FOLLOW THERE'S WAYS OUT THERE TO TACKLE IT.

IT'S A QUESTION OF TRYING TO MAKE SURE THERE'S THE POLITICAL WILL AND COLLABORATION IN SOCIETY.

WE'LL GET TOGETHER AND COLLABORATE FOR THIS CHALLENGE.

WHEN YOU LOOK AT THE GAP A FEW YEARS AGO, THE FIRST TIME IN HISTORY, PARTICULARLY IN AMERICA WHERE THE WEALTH IS REALLY PUSHED TO THE HIGH END OF 1 PERCENTERS IN THIS COUNTRY, HISTORICALLY THE SUBSTANTIAL AMOUNT OF WEALTH WAS IN THE MIDDLE CLASS.

NOW WE'VE SEEN AN UNBELIEVABLE SHIFT IN WEALTH IN THIS COUNTRY.

MANY FAMILIES ARE GOING WITHOUT.

AS I STATED, THEY'RE LIVING ONE PAYCHECK AWAY FROM HOMELESSNESS.

AS A POLICE OFFICER, I DID MIDNIGHTS.

OFTENTIMES I WOULD STOP AND ENGAGE WITH HOMELESS PEOPLE TO FIND OUT WHAT WAS THE PATHWAY TO BECOME HOMELESS.

I DO IT OFTEN NOW WHEN I RIDE THE TRAINS.

I WOULD STOP AND ENGAGE.

THESE ARE EVERYDAY NEW YORKERS.

THESE ARE FAMILY MEMBERS WHO HAD A MEDICAL ISSUE, A MEDICAL CRISIS, WENT THROUGH PERSONAL TRAUMA AND FOUND THEMSELVES TOP DISPLACED, A PROFESSIONAL THAT PROVIDES SERVICES TO ME, I WAS INTERACTING WITH HIM THE OTHER DAY.

HE SAID, ERIC, YOU COULDN'T REACH ME BECAUSE I'M IN A HOMELESS SHELTER.

HE WENT THROUGH A MEDICAL CRISIS THAT ALL OF A SUDDEN HIS LIFE STARTED SPIRALING OUT OF CONTROL.

THESE ARE NOT STRANGERS.

THAT YOUNG GIRL THAT'S IN A HOMELESS SHELTER IS THE LITTLE GIRL THAT USED TO CORN ROLL HER HAIR AS A CHILD.

THAT LITTLE BOY WAS THE LITTLE BOY THAT PLAYED BASEBALL WITH YOUR SON.

THAT ELDER WAS A WOMAN THAT SAT NEXT TO YOU IN CHURCH.

THESE ARE REAL PEOPLE.

THESE ARE FAMILY MEMBERS.

MANY OF US ARE WALKING BY THEM.

WE HAVE BECOME -- WE NORMALIZE HOMELESSNESS AND WE HAVE TO PAUSE FOR A MOMENT AND REALIZE THAT THESE ARE FORMER NEIGHBORS.

THERE BY THE GRACE OF GOD GO I.

WE NEED TO BECOME A SAFETY NET.

BOTH OF YOU HAVE MENTIONED A SIGNIFICANT NUMBER OF CHARITIES THAT THIS IS ATTACHED TO THAT YOU'RE GOING TO BE RAISING MONEY FOR.

I WANT TO PUSH BACK AND ASK A LITTLE BIT OF MAYBE A CYNICAL QUESTION.

IT SEEMS THERE'S CHARITIES THAT HAVE BEEN REACHING OUT.

WE'VE BEEN DOING THIS FOR YEARS AND I'M SURE PARTICULARLY HERE IN NEW YORK, THERE ARE PEOPLE WHO FEEL EXHAUSTED.

I DON'T KNOW WHAT ELSE TO DO.

I'VE DONATED MONEY.

I'VE GIVEN THIS, GIVEN MY TIME.

MAYBE I'VE WORKED AT ONE OF THE MISSIONS OR ONE OF THE HOMELESS SHELTERS AND THE PROBLEM JUST KEEPS GETTING WORSE.

SO HOW IS THIS DIFFERENT?

I THINK THAT OBVIOUSLY THIS IS ONE NIGHT AND IT'S A CALL TO ARMS REALLY, A CALL TO ACTION ACROSS THE WORLD.

BUT ULTIMATELY WE AS INDIVIDUALS AND AS CHARITIES AND SO ON CAN DO SO MUCH.

WE PROVIDE A BIT OF THE SAFETY NET AND PROVIDE A BIT OF SHELTER.

PROVIDE FOOD OR SUPPORT TO PEOPLE AND START TO MAKE AN IMPACT.

ULTIMATELY IT ALWAYS COMES DOWN TO THE POLITICS AROUND IT.

AND WHEN EVERYONE ACROSS THE WORLD OR THROUGH HISTORY, WE'VE SEEN THE ISSUE TACKLED SYSTEMICALLY SO THE NUMBERS WILL COME RIGHT DOWN.

IT ALWAYS COMES DOWN FROM THE POLITICAL SYSTEM ADOPTING SYSTEMATIC AND CONSCIOUS POLICIES.

THAT'S NOT JUST THROWING MONEY AT THE ISSUE.

IT'S NOT NECESSARILY ABOUT MONEY.

IT'S ABOUT HOW STRATEGICALLY MONEY IS INVESTED.

WHAT WE'RE GRATEFUL TO THE THOUSAND NEW YORKERS WHO ARE GOING TO BE SLEEPING OUT IN TIMES SQUARE -- AND THERE'S STILL TIME TO SIGN UP IF ANYBODY WANTS TO -- RAISING THE CONVERSATION.

WE SAT HERE WITH YOU NOW TALKING ABOUT IT.

THERE WILL BE LEGACY CONVERSATIONS TO THE EVENT WHERE WE CAN WORK COLLABORATIVELY AND CONSTRUCTIVELY WITH THE CITY AND OTHER CITIES INVOLVED TO LOOK AT WHAT'S OUT THERE INTERNATIONALLY IN TERMS OF BEST PRACTICE AND HOW WE BEST TACKLE THIS ISSUE IN NEW YORK AND ELSEWHERE.

GENTLEMEN, THANK YOU BOTH FOR JOINING ME.

THANK YOU.

FOR MORE INFORMATION ON THE WORLD'S BIG SLEEP-OUT, VISIT US AT METROFOCUS.ORG.

Funders

MetroFocus is made possible by James and Merryl Tisch, Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III, the Sylvia A. and Simon B. Poyta Programming Endowment to Fight Anti-Semitism, Bernard and Irene Schwartz, Rosalind P. Walter, Barbara Hope Zuckerberg, Jody and John Arnhold, the Cheryl and Philip Milstein Family, Janet Prindle Seidler, Judy and Josh Weston and the Dr. Robert C. and Tina Sohn Foundation.

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